Smithsonian's IMAX Set-Up to Get an Upgrade

Lasers instead of light bulbs to light giant movie screens

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    The National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center is one of the Smithsonian museums to show IMAX films.

    IMAX is beginning an initiative to transition museum-based theaters to new laser digital projection, beginning with the Smithsonian Institution.

    On Tuesday, IMAX  is expected to announce plans to upgrade the Smithsonian's three theaters in 2014. New technology uses lasers instead of light bulbs to light giant movie screens.

    CEO Richard Gelfond says the company invested $50 million to develop laser projection. He says IMAX's roots are in museums, and it aims to keep that business as film becomes obsolete. Digital projection allows museums to show more Hollywood movies.

    The new system includes technology that IMAX licensed from Eastman Kodak Co. in 2011 to improve digital images on the largest screens.

    Long associated with educational films, Ontario-based IMAX also is announcing plans to produce four new documentaries with MacGillivray Freeman Films.